Brendan Rodgers talks up fitness of Liverpool team ahead of Everton clash

 

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers spoke of his confidence in the physical condition of his players after the strong side he opted to pick ahead of this weekend's Merseyside derby defeated Anzhi Makhachkala 1-0 at Anfield.

The starting line-up Rodgers fielded for the Europa League clash on Thursday included the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez as the manager resisted the temptation to rest a host of players for Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to local rivals Everton.

And asked about his selection following the team's victory over their Russian opponents, Rodgers emphasised the fitness levels within his group.

"For us, it is about taking it one game at a time," the Northern Irishman said.

"Our squad is not overly big, but we were at home and the condition of the players physically is very good. So I had no concerns about that.

"The work-rate in training and the games has been fantastic. We will recover well after a very good performance and result, and now we are all really looking forward to Sunday."

Rodgers made only three changes from last Saturday's league win against Reading and saw his side put big-spending Anzhi - who are overseen by ex-Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink and had former Inter Milan and Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o up front - in the shade for much of the contest.

With the Reds looking increasingly threatening as time went on, it was one of those brought into the first XI - wideman Stewart Downing - who made the breakthrough with a superb strike which proved to be the winner

 

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Downing - moved from the wing to full-back for the second half - cut in from the left flank in the 53rd minute to crack home a shot from outside the box.

The 28-year-old England international has struggled to make an impact since joining Liverpool in 2011, and at the final whistle Rodgers urged him to go and soak up the applause of the home crowd.

Rodgers said: "It has been difficult for Stewart since he has been here, and it was just something to help his confidence.

"I think the Kop recognised that it was a wonderful goal at the end and if you can get a round of applause from them, that would mean a lot to anyone - a player, manager, coach, whatever.

"You saw how they reacted accordingly. They gave him a great round of applause and that will hopefully do him good going forward.

"His commitment was excellent. He had to play in a different position in the second half, but he has got the quality to do that."

Liverpool are now top of Europa League Group A with six points after three rounds of fixtures, with second-placed Anzhi and third-spotted Udinese both on four points and Young Boys in fourth on three.

PA

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